Lately I’ve struggled to find a sense of belonging. I constantly question if I am rightly placed in this world. I’ve journaled, actively practiced gratitude, meditated, found like-minded groups and spiritual organizations, affirmed and studied. But still found myself feeling lost and unaccomplished.
My Belonging Began with a Book
It was about this time last year that I was recommended to read Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home by Toko-pa Turner. I had never heard of the book or author before, but I had felt a calling in a mama friend, Keri Hanson’s request for a book-reading partner. So, after a quick Amazon search and prime on my side, I purchased the book and called it an early Mother’s Day gift to myself.
I hesitated to dive in after its arrival. It was just so unfamiliar. But then the first three sentences alone brought me to powerful, cleansing tears.
“To this world you belong. To this moment, in this place where you already stand, something greater has ushered you. To the momentum of a long line of survivors you are bound.”
I Was Running the Hamster Wheel
It is so easy to feel trapped by societal expectations. We get up, we work and we do it again the next day. Value is measured by the money in our bank accounts, the vehicles we drive, the vacations we take, the images of perfection we share.
And I Was Stuck
I was stuck on the hamster wheel in my head. I felt diminished by the facts that I did not produce an income, own a car, memories of my last vacation were fading fast and I was not accomplished in my dreams for myself, much less those I admired.
And this wheel races fast. I found that I couldn’t just hop off. The faster it spun, the more I feared getting lost outside of it. Every day there seemed to be more of a demand to produce and the calling I heard when I first cracked open this book became quiet.
A Morning Memory
It was during my morning breakfast routine that I was reminded of the “line of survivors” whose blood I owe such important life learnings. I was rationing my eggs to make it to the next grocery haul week. I resented this. Because I couldn’t even have my desired two eggs that morning.
But then an image of my Omie rushed to my memory. My Omie that survived her home being bombed during WWII. The mother that traded cigarettes with the soldiers in a German displacement camp for their blankets and socks to make my father’s baby clothes. The woman that traveled by train and by boat to the United States with nothing but the clothes on her back and a sick child in her arms.
And all of a sudden I was filled with great gratitude for my single-egg breakfast. I jumped off the spinning wheel. And I began a journey home.
Small Acts with Great Meaning
Our ancestors left us a legacy to learn from. For so long I was overwhelmed by the expectation that I live up to these legacies. Now I realize that is not their purpose.
Good Samaritan Home
I was privileged enough to grow up within such a world of learning. The very society that sponsored my grandparents and father to this country became my second home and first work – The Good Samaritan Society.
My grandparents were co-administrators for the Olathe, KS Good Samaritan Home for more than 30 years. They started in an actual home, later moving into a multi-level facility and even, long after retirement, being an integral part of the planning of the newest facility that ensured every resident had a window in their room.
Parents Pass Down Their Legacy
My father served this society as well for 38 years. At first as the son of the administrators that would show up after noon to mow the lawn shirtless as the nurses took their breaks at the window to watch. Later as the head of maintenance for not just one facility, but five others within the Olathe, KS campus.
Our Second Home
My parents met and were married at the Olathe Good Samaritan. I have memory following my father around the halls of Good Sam as early as still being in diapers. To say that Good Sam was our second home is just the beginning of the influence, heart and shelter it gave to our family and to me.
My First Work
As I got older, I would spend summer days helping my dad with little things around the building. I would help to refill the vending machines, weed and plant flowers in the yards, follow him to the back rooms and watch him tinker and fix the great machines that kept the building hot, cold, the kitchen cooking, the laundry washing. Every task could not be completed without conversation with the residents and employees along the way. I gained this huge extended family that came with so many stories.
Making a Home
One day there was a new resident that had just moved in. It was dad’s job that day to help her hang pictures and belongings on her freshly painted walls of her room. I greeted the new resident as graciously as my father did and then watched his patience as he asked where each piece of her old home should be hung in her new space. As each nail was attentively tapped into place and each picture hung, I came to a great understanding.
I remember explaining to my mother that day that I had learned that my father did small acts that had great meaning. That it was important that he kept the machines running that ran the building. That it was imperative that he ensured that the facility always passed the fire marshal’s inspections. But what was truly great was the expression on that new resident’s face as she watched white walls get turned into her home. That it is these acts that create belonging.
Remember Who You Are
It’s been more than two decades now since I had that realization. In that time I became a married woman, a college graduate, a divorced woman, a successful corporate manager, a newly wed again, a mother, a writer. This lost feeling didn’t just come from two cross-country moves, but also from my roles constantly being redefined and my definition of self getting muddled in the process.
My Own Legacy
I appreciated the legacy of my grandparents, of my parents, but I was also overwhelmed by the fact that at this point in my life I was too late. I would never be able to live up to what they had accomplished. And even if I were to carve my own path, I already felt behind and incapable of creating my own legacy.
Embrace the Mundane
However it is not a great legacy that creates belonging. It is when I brush my daughter’s hand and she then reaches to hold mine. Or it might be the smell of a home-cooked meal filling the kitchen. I feel belonging watching my husband sew the headband on a freshly bound book. It looks like a dance party with my toddler that stops her from tantruming. And I see it in the glass art made by my mother-in-law in our window that gets me to pause on a sunny day.
All the little moments that get lost when you are busy running the race to achievement. It’s within these moments where belonging waits to be found.
Don’t get me wrong, the race is important. Building and owning and accomplishing are important things to do in our society. But more important may be creating for the sake of creating and appreciating and remembering. Our stories are not just of how we survived, but the moments we chose to thrive within the small acts that have great meaning. The magnificent mundane.